Firstly, I wanted to reassure you that the consultation is not specifically about Epsom and Ewell. Heathrow is carrying the consultation out across a large swathe of the London area so that people are aware that they want to make changes to their flightpath arrangements.
This is not a Government consultation, and indeed we have received no proposals from Heathrow. If they do bring forward proposals for change in the years before a new runway opens, then they will have to do so through the proper procedures set out by the Civil Aviation Authority which exist for making airspace changes. These procedures include the need for detailed consultation to be carried out with those who may be affected, and which will occur at a later date.
There are two different processes happening on airspace at the moment to use it more efficiently. The Government, together with the organisation that controls Air Traffic Control, and individual airports are doing work on how to improve the way that airspace is used. As an example of this, modern technology should be able to be used in a way that reduces the stacking of aircraft in the London area waiting to land at Heathrow. Most of the planes that circulate above our area are in a holding pattern waiting to land at quite high altitude, rather than on approach to Heathrow which is normally further north. Better use of modern technology should make it possible to reduce or even eliminate this from our area. This is something that we are working towards for the 2020s.
Heathrow itself wants to start to make more efficient use of airspace, and change some of its ways of working, as well as to have some more daytime flights – though it doesn’t have space to do many more than at the moment. As an example, current practice requires more flights to land over London rather than from the West, and they are interested in modifying this. My understanding is that this broad ranging consultation is designed to test public views about different options, and as I say they are doing so over very wide areas – some that are regularly affected by planes overhead, and others that are less so.
As constituency MP, I am not currently aware of any likely significant increase in flights over Epsom and Ewell, although Heathrow has yet to submit to the CAA formal proposals. But because of my Government role, and the fact that my Department may have to assess any future airspace change proposal from Heathrow, any representations I make will have to be done in a way that doesn’t compromise the legal position of the Department.
So can I reassure you that I am watching this very carefully, and will always do what I can to ensure that my constituents do not face unacceptable change.
Rt Hon Chris Grayling MP
SECRETARY OF STATE FOR TRANSPORT